The Metaphysics of Mysticsm

a Commentary on the Mystical Philosophy of St. John of the Cross

By

Geoffrey K. Mondello

Dedicated to Mary, Mother of God

 

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Home
Preface to the Philosophy of St. John of the Cross
Foreword to the Philosophy of St. John of the Cross
An Introduction to the Philosophy of St. John of the Cross
The Mystical Tradition and St. John of the Cross
The Presuppositions of the Philosophy of St. John of the Cross
The Role of the Will in the Philosophy of St. John of the Cross
The Role of Understanding in the Philosophy of St. John of the Cross
The Role of Memory in the Philosophy of St. John of the Cross
The Metaphysics of the Dark Night of the Soul
The Metaphysics of the Night of the Spirit
The Problem of Induction as Pseudo-Problematic
Prolepsis: Objections to the Mystical Experience
Being, Becoming, and Eternity
A Biography of St. John of the Cross
Epilogue to the Metaphysics of Mysticism

© Copyright 2011-2017 by Geoffrey K. Mondello. All rights reserved
author@johnofthecross.com

 

EPILOGUE

 

In the end, something vital remains to be said about the enduring phenomenon of mystical experience itself. It has little to do with epistemology or metaphysics – which at best are only so many superficial tangents to the sublime experience which, we have seen, remains impenetrable to reason. We are, I think, mistakenly inclined to see this deeply personal and profoundly religious experience as somehow confined to the lives of a few remarkable individuals who by and large have been saints in a strictly canonical sense. We are intimidated by what we perceive to be the austerity of the lives they had lived, and tend to see them as persons quite apart from ourselves – and quite fortunately so. Very likely we are acquainted with one narrative or another detailing the severity of the lives they had lived – accounts sometimes embellished, as all hagiography to some extent is – with the great trials and hardships they endured in an adamantine faith that appears quite impossible to most of us. They are figures who loom largely in unforgettable but nevertheless dusty tomes from an age of faith as distant from us as the alchemist’s art.

As a consequence, we tend to consign the experience that shaped and ultimately defined their lives to the same reliquary to which we reverently, but no less resolutely, shelf these abstruse speculative systems together with the devout biographies that accompany them – for it no longer seems viable in our age or even possible in our lives. In short, the great mystical enterprise; indeed, the mystical phenomenon itself, tends to be perceived essentially as an historical phenomenon. This, I think, is due in large part to the emphasis placed upon the medieval mystics who, not surprisingly, had flourished in an age of faith, an age in which the Church predominated and whose every institution to some extent understood itself in relation to God. It was, moreover, the medieval mystics who had succeeded in systematically formulating this ancient doctrine into a viable Christian synthesis around which, at least implicitly, entire contemplative communities were subsequently formed. The goal, after all, of every contemplative is contemplation – and perfect contemplation culminates in union. These most conspicuous figures in the history of mysticism, confined to a fixed and distant era, seem – with few notable exceptions since – to have formed the terminus of a tradition whose impulse had somehow withered with the dawn of the Renaissance. But this, of course, is not true. The many Discalced Carmelite monasteries throughout the world – which have not merely survived, but have flourished – are extraordinary testimonies to the vibrant continuity of this tradition. They, and other contemplative orders – to say nothing of the lives of many individuals living contemplatively within the world at large – are reminders in this postmodern era that the ancient mystical impulse is indomitable, incessant, irrepressible – even eternal.

In the end, I think that the invitation to union is far more common than we suppose. I further think that the basic intuition underlying the experience of this invitation is, however indistinctly – and however reluctant we are to concede it – perceived as God. I am equally persuaded, however, that it is a perception we are likely to distort, resist, or even arrogantly dismiss. The reasons for this, to be sure, are many and varied. But I also think that this invitation leaves an indelible impression. However successful we are in explaining it away, this unmistakable invitation, I am convinced, is etched into the heart by God Himself, and continues to beckon us, despite the disdain, even the reproach of reason, to something beyond ourselves, something infinitely greater than our selves. And our reluctance to respond to this invitation seems, in the end, to be rooted in fear; the fear that, in the words of Archbishop Fulton Sheen, “if we give Him our finger, He will take our whole hand.” In an age that blenches before any absolute commitment whatever, many of us simply are not prepared to make a commitment as absolute as the invitation requires. For ultimately, we realize, it entails far more than our hand, or even our heart, embracing, as it does, the totality of our being in the totality of His love.
 




CONCLUSION
 

For all our speculative efforts to arrive at some rational tangent between epistemological accountability and the phenomenon of ecstatic union, we have achieved nothing more than a logical excursus into a deeply and profoundly preterlogical reality. The rigorously austere terms of logic only yield a pronouncement on form, prescinding from substance. To understand consonance in form is extrinsic to the subject of which it is predicated – except in purely relational terms. That the terms putatively inherent in phenomena accord with logic tells us nothing of the phenomena. Either they accord with logic or reason or they do not. No more. Logic makes no existential statements.

So what does this mean? It means that this tedious discourse has merely presumed to demonstrate that no conflict obtains between the canons of reason and the phenomena of ecstatic union. It gives us absolutely no insight into the experience itself – only the relational consonance inherent within it.

Perhaps a final, even apposite, metaphor remains: for those who have known nothing of conjugal union, the nature, the form, the method – all the physiological mechanics – of consummating that union are clearly understood. But however exhaustive, however extensive, however comprehensively they are apprehended, they yield nothing, absolutely nothing, of the nature of the experience itself. However rich their vocabulary, however profound their knowledge, not only will both be obviated by that union, but within that union both will become utterly superfluous to it.

Ecstatic union? Every other union is the merest, the most tenuous metaphor – for this sublime union of the soul with God.

It is the ultimate intimacy between the soul and God, the Bride and the Groom; the inexpressible consummation of love that demurs from the intrusion of reason, the prurience of language, the invasiveness of words, and none may intrude upon it in a futile and ultimately officious attempt to understand what can only be consummated.

A curtain is drawn that only the Lover may know the Beloved.

 

 END
 


About the Author

The author studied philosophy in the Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctoral programs at Boston University. The Metaphysics received the Imprimatur and Nihil Obstat from the Censor Librorum of the Archdiocese of Boston in an earlier redaction. The author is a member of the American Catholic Philosophical Association and a contributing editor to the Boston Catholic Journal.

 

Download entire Manuscript (free) in Download Manuscript in PDF Format  PDF format or   Download Manuscript in Microsoft Word FormatMicrosoft Word 

Home
Preface to the Philosophy of St. John of the Cross
Foreword to the Philosophy of St. John of the Cross
An Introduction to the Philosophy of St. John of the Cross
The Mystical Tradition and St. John of the Cross
The Presuppositions of the Philosophy of St. John of the Cross
The Role of the Will in the Philosophy of St. John of the Cross
The Role of Understanding in the Philosophy of St. John of the Cross
The Role of Memory in the Philosophy of St. John of the Cross
The Metaphysics of the Dark Night of the Soul
The Metaphysics of the Night of the Spirit
The Problem of Induction as Pseudo-Problematic
Prolepsis: Objections to the Mystical Experience
Being, Becoming, and Eternity
A Biography of St. John of the Cross
Epilogue to the Metaphysics of Mysticism

© Copyright 2011-2017 by Geoffrey K. Mondello. All rights reserved
author@johnofthecross.com